Coastal Hills in Late Summer

Since I had all the pastels out from Tuesday’s class, before I straightened up the mess in the studio, I decided on another study. This time, the oak-covered hills of California. In spring, the hills are brilliantly green, often covered with wildflowers, such as poppies and lupines. As spring gives way to summer, the heat comes, and the grasses dry out. Perfect conditions for all these dreadful wildfires of late . . . Anyway, the coast can be socked in with the summer fog, but inland, the hills are under the brilliant sun. As you look toward the Pacific, you can see the “fog monster” lurking on the other side of the range.

Poppies in Pastels

This is the second week of an online class in pastels, through the local adult school. I had begun the class last spring, a couple of weeks before the pandemic lock down hit California. I got my money refunded, which was good as I’d only had 2 of 8 classes under my belt. This fall, the same school and same teacher are available as a virtual class, using Zoom.

I am not a big fan of online classes that are live simply because I love the real-world interactions of students and teacher. Being able to wander around a classroom, have a conversation or two, discuss things with a teacher in depth (and close up!) when painting are all big, big advantages to a lap top and a poor monitor, as well as limited video capabilities. Still, learning does happen! I just like real life better than virtual. Nonetheless, critiques are possible as are good suggestions, some of which helped my painting out a lot.

That said, it is fun to paint in pastels. Here, the California Poppy Reserve was the subject matter, particularly wonderful after the beautiful, wet spring and “super bloom” we had. I used 400 grit Uart sanded paper, Rembrandt and Nupastels with a bit of charcoal, and sealed it with a Krylon semi-gloss acrylic finish.

Rush Creek in 15 Minutes

Seemed appropriate that a 15-minute study should be of a place called Rush Creek up in the Eastern Sierras!

Aspens, calm water, reflections, and done. I also used this as an opportunity to check out a new spray fixative (for me). This is an acrylic semi-gloss.

The problem with pastels is they smear if touched, so storing them and framing them can be a bit tricky. Smearing was attenuated well here, but it did take about 8 applications, some of which were a single coat, and the last about 4 or 5, back and forth, out of impatience.

Fixatives often dull colors or darken them, and whites can be especially vulnerable. This one seems to have done okay, perhaps turning the white of the aspen trunks to a creamy color, but the white trunks on the middle right seem to be doing okay.

Interesting thoughts arise . . .

Study at Pt. Lobos

You could spend your life exploring and drawing and painting Pt. Lobos in the Monterey area. Here is a quick study in pastels. This was a particularly difficult one to do because of the nature of the medium – messy and full of fine dust!

The distant cliffs across the waters are seen through the trees. Unlike gouache, you cannot paint over layers as successfully in pastels. More layers mean less success, even when you use a workable fixative. In watercolor masking can help as well as the fact you work from light to dark, so darker watercolor can obscure lighter washes.

In the end, the sky was a messy mush up weirdness – the white scribbles were my solution to the problem, but oddly, it did help out in the end. The sky was a flat grey, and here it gives the same flatness of color that morning.

37 Minute Painting

Another timed painting. This time the requirement was 37 minutes. I set my phone alarm and was shocked to hear it go off! I was checking it off and on, but suddenly it just rang, and here is the result.

This time I used Uart 600 grit paper, which is like a fine sand paper. It pulls the color of the pastels really easily so a lighter touch is required when painting than with the unsanded Mi-Teintes paper. I used a combination of photos for this one as I needed a creek, but I wanted some oaks and hills from around here. Not especially successful as far as I am concerned; the exercise was the point. I did get into the zone of painting even through I knew that timer would go off at some point.

24 Minute Painting

Following along with a pastels instructor, the by-word of the month is “fast and furious”. Well, for me, this means in less than 30 minutes. The instructor suggests 15 minutes. I decided to give myself “under 30” for a “fast and furious.” Here is the result.

The point of the fast-and-furious approach is to keep the artist from over thinking and overworking a painting. This exercise is invaluable as decisions have to made quickly and decisively. Pondering doesn’t happen! Instead it is like, hmm, let’s see; I think this could work. Grab, paint, run on to the next section. Top to bottom with swaths of color here and there to carry out a sense of continuity.

It worked out.

I won’t show you the first attempt.

High Desert Rain

I have had a perfectly lovely day today! Went out on a short road trip, did some photography, ate a Croque Madame for lunch, and drove through beautiful back country here where I live. Josh came along, and we had a nice day out. Once home, a nap, some coffee, and then, at long last, the pastels came out from hibernation! The result is more rain (we get none, I want some!) as subject matter. As pastels lend themselves to blurring and blending, I decided to use a long stroke of a finger tip, moving at an angle from top to bottom, to suggest that fierce rain one sees in the high desert. Dark background and a sunlit foreground. So fun to do!

Field of Flowers

I did a painting in pastels yesterday.  Out of practice!  Plus, I had to contend with curling paper, new pastels that are softer than what I am used to, a new fixative, and the fact that one of my boxes of 90 colors fell to the floor.  You can imagine that mess.  A day later, and the pastels are out, still jumbled, along with the curling paper, etc.

Antidote needed!

Flowers are always cheerful subjects, particularly those in a field.  Walking through the field, hearing the birds and hum of insects, feeling the itch of the grasses, is something I love and wanted to capture.  I think I did.  Such happiness!

Tanglewood (Pastels)

Another series of three to emerge from this Land of Pandemica, where house arrest prevails and imagination runs wild!

I took this picture about a month ago, just as the shelter-in-mandate order came down from on high.  I really like this picture because of its moodiness and the brightness of the leaves.  It looks pretty mysterious, but in reality that is an effect of the editing.  Still, I like it enough to give it an attempt for a number of reasons!  There is a rhythm in the trees and their curves.  The leaves on the ground lie fairly horizontally, while the green leaves are vertical.  All these conspire to challenge me . . . So, without further ado, below is the first attempt, in pastels as today is dedicated to pastels!

As you can see, I moved the leaves from vertical to a bit more diagonal.  I also added some “stuff” to the lower left corner as the original photo was pretty dark and lacking in detail.  The floor of last year’s leaves are more orange than beige.  I tried to pay attention to my marks – the stroke of the pastel stick – as well as to doing some negative painting to help the lighter areas stand out.

I am a fairly pleased with this painting.  Pastels are more forgiving than either gouache or watercolor – especially watercolor! – and because of this, I can think about contrast and structure a bit as I go along.  It may make the final one (watercolor) easier to do after the next one, which will be in gouache.